An area smacked hard by as many as three tornadoes this past weekend has the attention of not only state officials, but federal officials as well. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator David Paulison toured Newton, Barry and Jasper Counties, with Governor Blunt and his father, Southwest Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt. Paulison, with FEMA, promises a quick response from Washington.
"We’re going to continue to work with you, and make sure we get all the damage assessments done," said Paulison, "as soon as that application is filed. I’m committed to process that very quickly, and make a recommendation to the President. We’ll be here for the long haul. This is not a FEMA that you saw here two years ago; it’s a FEMA that’s committed to local communities, and that’s what it’s all about."
Chertoff spoke with reporters after touring the devastation. He said the damage is devastating, but the response of residents is inspiring.
"I’ll tell you one thing that I saw that was striking to me, both here and in Picher (Oklahoma)," Chertoff said, "The reaction people had was to thank God that they were alive. It wasn’t to think about the stuff they had lost, or to worry about the money, but it was to thank God they were alive. I think that is an unbelievable tribute to the spirit of people in this area."
Assessment teams are surveying three counties in southwest Missouri, determining just how much property damage the twisters did. The tornadoes were deadly, killing 16 and injuring many others, some seriously.